CEDAR FALLS — A 13-0 run to begin the game set the tone for Northern Iowa men’s basketball’s dominant 82-44 win over Chicago State Saturday afternoon at McLeod Center.
After that opening run, UNI (3-1) closed out the first half on an even bigger 24-6 run in the last 9:29.
“I think (the scoring runs) were defensive driven,” UNI head coach Ben Jacobson said. “I thought that was our best defensive performance in terms of our activity level. I thought guys really flew to the ball in some rotations. We did not foul them. The guys of course made some good decisions and got some pretty good opportunities on offense, but I thought we had our best defensive start in the four games we’ve played.”
The Panthers shot 60 percent in the first half on 17-of-28 shooting and were led by Juwan McCloud and Klint Carlson, who scored 14 and 10 in the half, respectively. Carlson, who entered the game averaging just over six points per game, was able to ignite his offense against the Cougars (1-4), finishing with 12.
“The only thing missing (from Klint’s game) was him getting a few baskets,” Jacobson said. “In terms of how he was playing all of these things are at a much higher level than a year ago: his leadership, his communication, his effort, his toughness, he’s passed the ball very well, he’s much more active in terms of rebounding. The only thing missing from that list was making a few more baskets and tonight he just looked more comfortable, more confident and did a great job of taking advantage of the smaller guys and getting to the rim and scoring. I really like how he’s playing.”
With Wyatt Lohaus, Hunter Rhodes and Justin Dahl still sidelined with injuries, Tanner Lohaus and Miles Wentzien saw considerable minutes off the bench. Wentzien scored 11, rotating between the point guard and off-guard positions.
“I liked both those guys today,” Jacobson said. “Miles, like most guys, (has) got to get out there a little bit to get comfortable. Once he gets settled in there’s some things he can do that can help this team. (Bell) had made three straight 3s and we went to Miles and Miles was able to get into him a bit and stay close to him. He didn’t make another three in the half. Then, offensively, he’s got enough to his game.”
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Tywhon Pickford continued to contribute in a big way on the glass, grabbing 14 rebounds in 32 minutes, one shy of the McLeod Center record by a Panther. Through four games the true freshman is averaging 10 rebounds per contest, providing a much-needed element for a UNI team that struggled mightily with their rebounding a season ago.
“It gives us a totally different look than what we’ve had,” Jacobson said. “The last guy to rebound at that level in terms of impact was Marvin (Singleton). It’s having a great impact on what we’re doing.”
Bennett Koch and McCloud led the Panthers in scoring with 21 and 18 points, respectively. McCloud is now averaging more than 12 points per game after struggling offensively in his true freshman season, when he averaged only 3.7 points in 28 starts.
“I think the game is starting to slow down a little bit for (Juwan),” Jacobson said. “So he’s finishing better at the basket, he’s a little more patient, staying on the dribble a little bit longer. Today he was doing what he could to make the game easier for his teammates. When you’re a point guard that’s your No. 1 job and today is the best he’s done that.”
Northern Iowa returns to action next Wednesday against SMU (3-0) at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.